John Rochard is a down-on-his-luck miner that just hit the mother lode – some sort of alien ruins have been discovered deep inside the asteroid he’s mining! But this tiny amount of good luck soon turns bad as he and his crew are attacked by marauding space pirates. Armed with his G-Lifter gravity gun, he’ll fight back against the invaders and uncover the secret behind the ruins.
Rochard is worth your $5 because… it’s got some clever 2-D physics puzzles, and they’re fun to solve. The answers aren’t always obvious, but they’re rarely frustrating.
But don’t pay full price for Rochard, since… it falls into the same trap most of these physics puzzlers do – the puzzles become increasingly finicky about manipulating the physics engine just so. The combat is also occasionally unfair and rarely fun until the G-Lifter is upgraded to work on humans.
- Most of the time, going the wrong way or exploring will earn you a gold token. These aren’t worth anything but achievements and bragging rights, though.
- I found the combat substantially easier with a controller, although that might be personal preference.
- The game doesn’t tell you this until pretty far in, but when in low gravity, you can jump and throw something downward to travel further.
Juan Aguacate is a lowly agave farmer with Luchadore dreams. When the evil Carlos Calaca returns from the dead to steal the fair daughter of El Presidente, a magical Luchadore mask transforms him into a superhero! Can Juan stop Calaca? Probably! But first he’ll have to explore a bunch of Metroidvania-style temples and learn a lot of wrestling-themed powers in order to become powerful enough to defeat him and save the girl.
Guacamelee is worth your $5 because… it’s a solid entry in the side-scrolling beat-em-up / Metroidvania genre. The world is colorful and vibrant, and the soundtrack is stellar. Juan’s fighting moves are fun to execute, and exploration is very rewarding.
But don’t pay full price for Guacamelee, since… it’s punishing, oh so punishing. Even if you don’t go after some of the optional goals, just clearing the platforming challenges required to win is hard. There’s a lot of buttons that need to be perfectly timed and pressed in just the right combinations. Similarly, the combat can get hard, especially with the boss fights. I replayed each of the bosses dozens of times before I finally beat them.
- There are a lot of areas you’ll have to revisit once you learn new techniques, but you can uncover chests and other collectibles on your map even if you can’t reach them.
- You can up your combos by repeatedly launching enemies into the air. This does very little damage and can get you over the hump of some of the harder combo challenges.
- Train with the oversized chicken in the town when you can. He’s got some interesting combos, and his training dummy can take the punishment.
Lara Croft, the titular tomb raider, is a gaming icon from the 90’s. In this reboot-slash-prequel of the series, Lara is a junior archaeologist looking for a long-lost island in the Pacific. When she and her crewmates are stranded on a strange island filled to the brim with hostile cultists, it’s up to her to use all her survival training to pull through in one piece.
Tomb Raider is worth your $5 because… it is probably one of the best games I’ve played lately. It’s polished, and it shows in every aspect of the game. Exploration is fun and rewarding. Lara herself has an interesting story arc, and she’s animated extremely well. The island’s mysteries are engaging. Combat is even well done. It’s just an all-around good game.
But don’t pay full price for Tomb Raider, since… it really doesn’t break the action-movie mold. The first part of the game almost plays like a survival horror title, but the tension breaks quickly. It’s a minor complaint, though, as I don’t think Tomb Raider really works as survival horror.
- You can tell if there are enemies around by how Lara stands. If she takes cover and has her weapons drawn, enemies are nearby.
- Most surfaces that Lara can scramble up are painted white.
- Get the upgrades that make enemies drop scrap and ammo as soon as you can. These are super useful!
- There are a few missable achievements, one is secret – you have to talk to all the other Endurance crewmembers any time you are together. There’s another for shooting dynamite out of the air.
- Post-game, you can only get collectibles and scrap, the enemies do not respawn. Thus, focus on clearing any combat related challenges ASAP.
Stranded on a remote research station, a mysterious amnesiac must uncover what befell the researchers and escape the station alive. Aiding the hero in their quest is a device that can be used to create clones and swap between them. Standing between the hero and escape is a challenging set of puzzles that will push your understanding of the device to its limits.
The Swapper is worth your $5 because… it’s a well-executed, beautiful 2-D puzzle game. The mechanics are simple to understand but extremely challenging to master. Each puzzle is small enough to fit on a single screen, but balanced and nuanced enough to require a decent amount of brainpower to unravel. The art and music are both top notch, and really convey a sense of loneliness and despair that seem to pervade the station.
But don’t pay full price for The Swapper, since… it’s a relatively short game. There are less than 20 puzzles or so, and they’re all a single screen in size. Traversing the environment can be needlessly frustrating, even though there is a fast travel system.
- All the puzzles can be solved as soon as you encounter them. There aren’t any upgrades or other trickery involved. You’ve just got to figure them out.
- Sometimes it helps to start from the goal. Where do you need to be? What would you have to do to get to that position? Working backwards can often give you important clues.
- Often you’ll have to sacrifice or reclaim your clones in order to make progress.
Orcs Must Die 2
There are a lot of orcs, and they must die. That’s more or less all you need to know. Well, the manner of their demise may be of interest – you’re armed to the teeth with traps, trinkets, weapons, and other orc-slaying tools. Orcs Must Die 2 is an “3rd person action tower defense” game in the same mold as Sanctum, Iron Brigade/Trenched, and other such hands-on enemy slaughtering sims.
Orcs Must Die 2 is worth your $5 because… it’s a rough and tumble good time, especially in co-op. There’s only 2-player co-op here, but it’s fun and almost certainly the way the game was designed. Orc slaying feels fun, and winning skulls to upgrade your traps gives you a good feeling of progress and customization.
But don’t pay full price for Orcs Must Die 2, since… it’s somewhat one-note after a while. Many of the traps and weapons are novelties at best, and you’ll find yourself relying on the same loadout game after game. The utility of ceiling and wall traps is somewhat outstripped by the frequency at which you won’t be able to find available ceilings or walls to put them on.
- I would suggest focusing your skulls on a limited number of weapons and traps to start with. You’re going to want some heavily upgraded stuff to win some of the mid-to-late levels of the game.
- Replaying easy levels is a good way to get some easy skulls. Bonus skulls are cheap and easy if you kill quickly and don’t get hit.
- If you play in single player you get extra slots relative to playing in co-op. I tended to find sticking a trinket or two in these slots was a good way to get ahead.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie
Joe Danger 2 is a 2-D stunt driving simulator that feels like the combination of Excitebike, Stuntman, and a Tony Hawk or SSX game. Crazy stunts need to be executed perfectly, and Joe is the man with the plan. He’ll drive, ski, motorbike and jetpack through some crazy levels, in search of elusive gold stars and speedy finishes.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie is worth your $5 because… it captures some of the raw fun that those franchises have – it feels exhilarating to race through a course, popping stunts and earning stars. There’s replay value from returning to old levels to beat the par time, or to collect stars you missed on the first pass.
But don’t pay full price for Joe Danger 2: The Movie, since… it gets a bit repetitive, and the difficulty is a bit uneven. Some levels have tons of checkpoints, where others don’t have a single one. On the checkpoint-less levels, expect to restart a lot, which can get frustrating.
- For 100% combo stars, just wheelie through the whole level. It’s really a lot easier than it seems at first.
- It pays to focus on the far right hand edge of the screen, as this is where upcoming traps will first show up.
- In many of the levels, you can backtrack to collect things you missed, although this hurts your finish time.
These games all fell below the line and are hereby banished for all eternity, or for when I get really, really bored:
- AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome – It’s a base jumping game, if that makes sense. The goal is to earn a lot of points by flying past buildings on your way down. The physics are just a tad too frustrating for my tastes.
- Anodyne – Kind of an indie take on the top-down Legend of Zelda games. There’s just wasn’t enough here to really grab me and hold my interest, unfortunately.
- Anomaly: Warzone Earth – Man, I really liked this game up to a point. Then I hit a level where all the tricks they’d taught you were thrown out the window, and the game changed completely. It’s still a pretty solid “reverse tower defense” game, but I couldn’t stick with it to the end.
- Gemini Rue – This is a game cut from the classic VGA adventure game mold. It’s got some cool puzzles and an interesting setting, but the combat and the somewhat cheesy plot kind of ruined it for me.